HARRISBURG — When Shirley McCormick turned 21, she cast her first ballot amid the backdrop of the Vietnam War. She was the first woman in her family to do so — her mother chose to not vote, and years earlier, her grandmother did not have the right.
McCormick, 70, thought of her grandmother as she stood on the steps of the Capitol Rotunda on Monday, surrounded by white-clad women celebrating the 100th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, which prohibited voting discrimination on the basis of sex.
“Voting is such an important thing because it makes such a difference in things in the state, locally, and the country as a whole,” said McCormick. "They fought long and hard to get that.”
McCormick joined about 100 women in marking the anniversary by signing copies of the 19th Amendment, which passed Congress on June 4, 1919, and was ratified by Pennsylvania 20 days later on June 24. Pennsylvania was the seventh state to approve the amendment, and it became law in 1920, when three-quarters — or 36 — of the then 48 states ratified it.
Still, challenges remained, particularly for women of color, who faced polling taxes and other barriers to casting their ballot.
Pat Jordan of Wayne said women who fought for the vote still encountered disapproval while going to the polls. “It’s horrifying to think of what these women who were working for the vote had to slog through — at times disrespect, the lack of legal protection, and even their own family and friends finding out what they were doing,” she said.
Jordan sees an erasure of women’s history today — something she aims to fight by regularly dressing as Carrie Chapman Catt, a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association who founded the League of Women Voters in 1920, and waving a “votes for women” banner.
But State Rep. Joanna McClinton (D., Phila.) said the anniversary is also about remembering the progress that has been made — and the progress yet to come.